Eschatology Studies (31)

It is written:

Ezekiel 38:2-“Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him,

In verse two, we are told about the prince of “Rosh.”

Who (or what) is Rosh?

Now, it is very likely that your Bible translation will not use this word.

For example, observe how this passage is translated in different translations:

Ezekiel 38:2 (KJV)-Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him,

Ezekiel 38:2 (ASV)-Son of man, set thy face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him,

Some of the translations use the word “Rosh,” while others simply translate this as “chief prince.”

There is confusion about exactly how to translate this word. You see, it could be a word that simply means “the ruler.”

Or, it could be a personal noun.

Let’s notice some of the interesting facts regarding this issue:

“Bible scholars have often identified Rosh with Russia. But this conclusion has not been unanimous. Two key questions must be answered to properly identify Rosh: (1) Is Rosh a common noun or a proper name? and (2) Does Rosh have any relation to Russia? The word rosh in Hebrew simply means “head, top, summit, or chief.” It is a very common word used in all Semitic languages. Most Bible translations translate rosh as a common noun—“ chief.” The King James Version, Revised Standard Version, English Standard Version, New American Bible, New Living Translation, and New International Version all adopt this translation. However, the Jerusalem Bible, New English Bible, and New American Standard Bible all translate Rosh as a proper name indicating a geographical location. The weight of evidence favors translating Rosh in Ezekiel 38–39 as a proper name. Five arguments support this view. First, the eminent Hebrew scholars C. F. Keil and Wilhelm Gesenius both hold that a proper noun is the better translation of Rosh in Ezekiel 38: 2-3 and 39: 1, referring to a specific geographical location. 214 Second, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, translates Rosh as the proper name Ros. This translation is especially significant since the Septuagint was translated only three centuries after Ezekiel was written—obviously much closer to the original than any modern translation. The modern translations of Rosh as an adjective can be traced to the Latin Vulgate of Jerome. 215 Third, in their articles on Rosh, many Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias (New Bible Dictionary, Wycliffe Bible Dictionary, and International Standard Bible Encyclopedia) support taking it as a proper name in Ezekiel 38. Fourth, Rosh is mentioned the first time in Ezekiel 38: 2 and then repeated in Ezekiel 38: 3 and 39: 1. If Rosh were simply a title, it would be dropped in these two places, because when titles are repeated in Hebrew, they are generally abbreviated. Fifth, the most impressive evidence in favor of taking Rosh as a proper name is simply that this translation in this context is the most natural. G. A. Cooke translates Ezekiel 38: 2, “the chief of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.” He calls this “the most natural way of rendering the Hebrew.”…There are two key reasons for understanding Rosh in Ezekiel 38–39 as a reference to Russia. First, linguistically and historically, there is substantial evidence that in Ezekiel’s day there was a group of people known variously as Rash, Reshu, or Ros who lived in what today is southern Russia. 217 Egyptian inscriptions as early as 2600 BC identify a place called Rosh (Rash). A later Egyptian inscription from about 1500 BC refers to a land called Reshu that was located to the north of Egypt. 218 Other ancient documents include a place named Rosh or its equivalent in various languages. The word appears three times in the Septuagint (LXX), ten times in Sargon’s inscriptions, once in Ashurbanipal’s cylinder, once in Sennacherib’s annals, and five times in Ugaritic tablets. 219 While the word has a variety of forms and spellings, it is clear that the same people are in view. Rosh was apparently a well-known place in Ezekiel’s day. After providing extensive evidence of the origin and early history of the Rosh people, and then tracing them through the centuries, Clyde Billington concludes: Historical, ethnological, and archaeological evidence all favor the conclusion that the Rosh people of Ezekiel 38–39 were the ancestors of the Rus/ Ros people of Europe and Asia. . . . Those Rosh people who lived to the north of the Black Sea in ancient and medieval times were called the Rus/ Ros/ Rox/ Aorsi from very early times. . . . The Rosh people of the area north of the Black Sea formed the people known today as the Russians. 220 The great Hebrew scholar Wilhelm Gesenius, who died in 1842, noted that Rosh is “undoubtedly the Russians.” 221 Second, geographically, Ezekiel 38–39 emphasizes repeatedly that at least part of this invading force will come from the “remote parts of the north” (38: 6, 15; 39: 2, NASB). The Bible usually provides directions in reference to Israel, which, on God’s compass, is the center of the earth (Ezekiel 38: 12). If you draw a line directly north from Israel, the land that is most remote or distant to the north is Russia.” (Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview Of Bible Prophecy And The End Of Days, 294-297 (Kindle Edition); Carol Stream, Illinois; Tyndale House Foundation)

It seems likely that “Rosh” is indeed a veiled reference to Russia.

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